On the 20th of October, Metro’s board held a public hearing on proposed service cuts and fare hikes for Metro, including the proposed permanent midnight closure even after “safe track” is finished. Over 60 people spoke against the proposals at the hearing and more protested outside.
The biggest controversy this time around is over the proposal to shut Metro down at midnight or earlier 7 days a week, permanently. They are proposing to close Metro stations in off-peak hours as well As always they are proposing to cut bus routes as well, even as low income neighborhoods like Congress Heights are targetted to lose their Metro stations. As they do seemingly every year, the Metro board is also proposing to demand that Metro’s riders pay even higher fares for this reduced service.
At the protest outside, an activist from DC’s Statehood Green Party said there are enough millionaires in DC for taxes on them or on corporations that rely on Metro to at least cover the cost of keeping Metro running and probably to make it much cheaper or even free. Gas tax increases for Metro would be another option, given that gas is selling for barely over half what it did a few years ago. If Metro spirals into the ground and shuts down outright, the effect on car and even bike traffic would probably be as bad a closing down at least one lane on every road in or out of DC-permanently.
Speaking of bicycles, the recent huge increase in the number of people riding bicycles in DC appears to match declines in Metro ridership. There are at least as many drivers as before if not more due to all that cheap gas.
The seemingly annual proposals for service cuts and fare hikes make both MetroBus and MetroRail “politically unreliable.” This means if you rely on Metro, at any time your route could be cut, you could be subjected to a de facto curfew by reduced late-night hours, or Metro could impose new “security” rules that make you regret your choice to rely on them.
Several people at the rally also agreed when asked that Metro is dangerously over-policed and that for some that is a reason not to ride the trains. Just yesterday a female African-American high school student was assaulted by Metro Transit police over a lollipop.
Mainstream media reports from inside the hearing report people complaining about being stuck at their place of work after Metro closes all the way to Metro’s opening the next morning. Not all jobs pay enough for people to use Uber to get home, and not everyone has a smartphone. Beyond this, Metro’s problems have caused a steady rise in traffic on DC streets.
The combination of Safe Track with the Beach Drive shutdown has created so much traffic on 16th st that it is now nearly impassable even to cyclists in some places, forcing bikes onto sidewalks and adding pedestrians to the those impacted by this mess. Shutting down Metro at night is guaranteed to lead on the one hand to less business in the city’s bars and nighclubs, but also to a lot more drunk driving by those who go out to drink anyway.